Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cold Sheeping and other Adventures

This is the year.  The year I look back in December 2015 at my baskets and shelves and the nooks and crannies where I've squirrelled and stashed away yarn and fibre and fleece and I see that I've made an appreciable dent in it all.

There are bags and bags and bags of dyed and washed fleece sitting patiently waiting on top of the bookcases in our dining room.  Blues and greens and oranges and purples and, and, and........the list goes on.

the bags and bags just waiting to tumble down on us.....

and this isn't all of it.......not by a long shot


I've started to use my drum carder as it was actually meant to be used.  Who would have thought it?  You follow instructions and get a better result??!  It'll never catch on in my house.

I like unexpected colour combinations.  I carded a chartreuse green bundle of fleece with a handful of lilac/grey/green fleece.  The lilac stuff was much softer than the chartreuse and shorter-stapled, too.  There are delicious little knots of purpley grey just waiting to become interesting knubbles in the yarn when the batts are spun.  I don't know just yet if these batts are destined for Etsy or for me.  We'll see.













Better labelling is in my future this year, too.  I could have sold mountains of dyed fibre in the shop had I just taken the time to label the bag with what it actually contained!!  Some fleeces are easy to identify, others - not so much!

this fleece, for example - well..... it's definitely wool.......


So, this month at least, I'm going batty :o)

I treated myself to some soft merino blue top and laid it out to see what I had in the stash that would go with it.  I had a vague idea of wanting something Springlike.  Anyway, this is the resulting pile of fibre before carding.  We have - blue merino top, hand dyed faux silk in a kind of greyish green colurway, bright green merino top and some hand dyed turquoise and teal faux silk.


Batt in waiting......
finished Spring batt.  This one made it into the shop on Etsy
 and since I'm feeling good and random this sunny Thursday (yes, that's right, the sun is shining on Scotland!  I know!  I'm surprised, too!) here's a bonus chicken pic of my girls in the back garden last summer.

the girls say 'Happy Spinning and Knitting, guys!'

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Surprise Yarn Balls

This is something I've been mulling over for a while.  The idea of a surprise yarn ball......

The idea is that I take a ball of my handspun yarn and wrap it around several little trinkets that fall out as surprises as you knit something with the yarn.  I've made a prototype for my friend Ali's birthday.  I was thinking she would enjoy simply knitting and felting the yarn and then making flower brooches from the felt and brooch backs and embellishing them with the beads and ribbon.

I know I'd like to receive a surprise yarn ball like this.  We'll see if Ali agrees and then, if the feedback is positive, I'll need to get busy making more for the shop on Etsy.

The hand spun and hand dyed Romney yarn and all the goodies hidden inside the yarn ball - pretty beads, handmade stitch markers, ribbon, thread and brooch backs

Ta-daa!  The finished ball.



What do you think?  Would other knitters like this as much as I would - or am I deluding myself?

If you have a second to spare, let me know in the comments below if you like the idea of a surprise yarn ball and would buy it for yourself or for a knitter friend.

I was thinking of including vintage buttons in the next one for some added fun.




Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cosy

I hate being cold.  The best thing we ever did in our house is install a wood burning stove.  I could kiss that thing.  Scotland is a cold place.  And when it's not actually freezing cold, it's usually busy being miserable, grey or dreich.

One things for certain, though.  It makes it a lot easier to justify knitting blankets.  I have piles.  Not in the medical sense; in the sense of having multiple layers of knitted blankets available to me.

Christmas Stonington Shawl in Plotulopi - unspun Icelandic yarn.  If you need a good blanket or shawl pattern, take a look through Elizabeth Zimmermann projects on Ravelry for inspiration.

Log cabin mash-up blanket.  It's gotten a bit bigger since this photo was taken.

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawl made with doubled Plotulopi to be a bit thicker and bigger 
There are more blankets in my house - I'll need to take some pictures of the cosiness.  Especially since it's a snowy day here in Scotland and I'm freezing!!!!!  There's nothing like a wood burner and a layer of wool over your lap to keep the chill out.

Happy Knitting and Spinning!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Links and Paths and Luck

I can't get over how things are invisibly linked in your life without you even knowing about it.  None of us exist in isolation and this was proved to me just today.

I recently sold a couple of items on Etsy to a lovely crafter in Fife - Aileen Clarke.  She lives not twenty miles from me.  What she did with my fibre really blew me away.  I feel like she took my creativity, added her own and the total was greater than the sum of its parts.  She is a real artist and I feel privileged that she chose to use my fibre in her work.

Anyway, enough with the gushing!  This is what she bought from my Etsy shop, SnowdaySpinning

Silk and Merino hand carded batt
Hand dyed silk hankies in blues and greens 


and this beautiful creation is what she made with it all......

Glorious, isn't it??

I know that you are now champing at the bit, saying, 'for God's sake tell me where she sells her stuff!!'  Well, since you asked so nicely.....

Aileen sells both from her website at  and also on Etsy, where you'll find her at Aileen Clarke Crafts

I dare you to have a look at her stuff and not want to buy at least five things - I know I did!!

Happy Spinning - and Felting!



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Food memories - Jean's Meatloaf

This blog isn't always going to be about spinning.  No-one's one dimensional and I'm no different to anyone else.  I love food as well as fibre, so occasionally, I'll be throwing out a few recipes for stuff I love.  Hope you enjoy!

This meatloaf is a moveable feast that is always delicious.  I've been making it for over twenty years and have never served it to anyone without them asking for the recipe.  I'm almost embarrassed to tell them how to make it; it's so simple.  But delicious.  So delicious.  And the sandwiches it makes the day after are out of this world.

This is my mum in law's meatloaf.  Jean was one of a kind and I loved and love her very much.  

Half as much finely chopped streaky smoked bacon to however much leftover roast chicken or turkey you have to hand.  One packet of bread sauce mix (I know, I know, but trust me!).  3-4 eggs or more if you are making a larger quantity.  You need enough egg to make the mix feel very slightly sloppy when you mix it, but not runny with egg.

If you should have any little pockets of jellified juices in the corner of the roasting tray, add them to the mix, too.  It's all delicious flavour.

Turn out the mixture into a loaf tin - or two if you've got a lot of mixture - lined with a greaseproof paper liner.  Do not use foil.  Repeat - Do. Not. Use. Foil.  It will stick like sticky stuff on a particularly sticky day.

Bake at Gas 5, 180 degrees C, 360 degrees F, until golden brown.  When you insert a thin-bladed knife and pull it out to touch it, it should feel uncomfortably hot.

Let cool a little and serve with either mashed potatoes and more bread sauce and peas or with little cubes of roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes.  Either way it's delish!  It slices better the next day once things have settled a bit and cooled, but even hot and crumbly it's amazing.

And now I know what I want for dinner tonight........

Happy Spinning - and Eating!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Passing it On

I have a very cool daughter.  She knows who she is and is full of justified confidence and beauty.  But she doesn't knit very much.  Somehow, I manage to love her anyway.

This Christmas, she went through a spurt of knitting enthusiasm when she was home over the festive period, but it waned, as it always tends to.

She had wanted to knit a cosy blanket.  She shares my loathing of ever being cold.  So, I took the five big squares she had knitted and stuffed into a basket alongside my stash - a mixture of acrylic, millspun and hanspun yarns in shades of turquoise and blues and greys - and added a new square of my own.  I bordered them each with one block of log cabin and then put it all together.

The seaming was a little hampered by our Westie deciding to sleep on the squares as I was sewing, but eventually, after much shoogling and persuading, that part was finished.
The mischief-maker in question - Deil, the Westie
One final block of log cabin around the very edge and it was done.  A collaborative project to keep her toes warm or sit across our knees while we watch RuPaul's Drag Race and drink chai together on the sofa.

So, I haven't passed the knitting and spinning bug onto my daughter.  She might take it up later, she might never lay hands on needles again.  It doesn't matter.  After all, non-knitters are people, too :o)

One thing I have found is that I'm passing my skills backwards instead of forwards - back to my mum instead of onward to my child.

My Mum was always a brilliant knitter, but has steadily gravitated towards simpler projects as she's gotten older.  But I've introduced her to knitting on circulars to take the strain from her arthritic wrists and she's mastered mitered squares for cosy blankets for her grandkids and great-grandkids.  She's even almost got the hang of applied i-cord.  She loves Elizabeth Zimmermann - the DVD's I loaned to her and the books that hold all the wonderful, timeless EZ patterns and she calls her 'that clever woman'.

So, it's not always about passing on our passions and fiber creativity onto the next generation; there are others who've come before who we can teach as we learn from their journey.  Teaching someone a new technique schools you as much as it does them.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Great Cardigan Adventure

It started with an idea.

My husband is always hot stuff.  In every way.  He gets too overheated wearing full jumpers unless we're talking 15 degrees below outside or he's ill.  He's already got a sweater made from a combination of silk and wool which he loves and looks especially cute in.  It's from Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein.  If you knit for a man you love and want to make him something he'll actually want to wear rather than feel obliged to - treat yourself and buy or borrow a copy.

Anyway, after this sweater came the idea of making him a cardigan out of my handspun.  So far, so good.  I have some lovely Jacob yarn in a light double knit kind of weight already spun up - would that do?  Hmmmm, not quite right.  Some Shetland, then?  Spun fine so as not to be too warm?  Yeah, no.

And then the summer crop of fleeces started to arrive and in amongst the bounty was a lovely coloured Ryeland fleece.


Really delicious colours - you can see that from the photos.  Deep chocolate brown, lighter browns, dark greys and flashes of lighter grey.  When it's all carded together into batts, the colours blend and weave together harmoniously.  We had a winner.

But.  This stuff is not the most fun I've ever had spinning.  I prefer a mid to long staple fleece and this stuff is short - only two inches at the max.  And there are lumps and bumps everywhere in the batts.  Surely this will make an inferior yarn, I thought?  Turns out, no.  I set to work on my ever-ready Ashford Kiwi and I have to say that the finished yarn is squishy, bouncy and just wants to be petted once it's in the skein.  It's also heavier than I ever thought I'd knit up for any garment I'd ever make for him - an aran weight at an educated guess.




I'm 5 skeins - almost 6 -  in to the adventure.  Soon it'll be time to start swatching for the cardigan.  Again the unexpected strikes.  Makes life interesting, doesn't it?

Happy Sunday Spinning!